Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Day 387- From Real To Fake

This was an experiment to create a miniature plant out of real leaves. 

Photo courtesy of Earth Floral- These Aralia branches are in fact faux branches

It was MarG's birthday and someone gave her a bunch of flowers with some Ming Aralia for foliage. The ones picked had really small leaves that I thought would  look great in miniature.

I really just did 2 things. Step 1: Paint the leaves in acrylic green. Step 2: Gloss varnish the leaves when dry.

After that, I plucked the leaves and stuffed them into a pot. Then I applied a 2nd coat of gloss varnish.

17 days later......


I wish. 

As you can see from the picture above, the leaves have dried up a bit but the colour and gloss stayed. At this point, the leaves looked like they were made with paper. So I added some dried flowers to liven it up. 

I guess I have successfully made something real look like something fake. Let's hope it last like one. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Day 315, 34something and 394- Birgit's Cards

Inside of a card from Birgit received sometime in August 2012

Befriending Birgit is like befriending one of the most  popular girls in school except she is one of those really rare popular girls who are ultra nice. Few who knew her could resist her charm and if you had read her comments, you would understand why. Her special gift is her words; encouraging, witty and always sincere; words she unfailingly leaves with many of the blogs she follows. And she follows many. 

Gift from Birgit when I visited her last year

Birgit recently commented in my blogpost about the handmade gift I did for my 80 year old friend. She wrote about how she often personalised and handmade her cards. She added that she was surprised how appreciative one recipient of those cards were.

Well, Birgit, I was one of those lucky recipients and today, I want to show everyone here how you must not be surprise at all why we love your cards.

Assortment of colourful beads and findings from you during Europe 2012

This was the peacock-centric parcel you gave me because peacocks often remind you of me. Not only did you give me a peacock envelop, you made little peacock cards for me to use in my projects.

Inside the card was a little plastic bag holding 2 peacock China plates. 

You said they made you think of me immediately and you just had to buy them for me. Of course, you didn't forget that I love marzipan and accompanying the card and the gifts, was a box of the best marzipan in the world, the Niederegger Marzipan.

Almost exactly one year after my visit, you gave me another box of Niederegger Marzipan and a load of woodcuts that looked like they were made for my abandoned house. You said in your card this time that you just felt like sending me a gift because it's the one year anniversary of Europe 2012. 

That, my friend is the Birgit we have all come to love. Beyond the gifts and cards, her generosity to spend time on our blogs with loving comments, there's that consideration she extends to all her friends, that assurance from her that somewhere out there, we have a friend who is thinking of us. 

We, the recipients of her cards, are we not the lucky ones? 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Day 386- My Palette

What is your palette like?

Mine started life as a chair. A chair that has since broken its back and lost an arm with legs that no longer stood strong.

Yet, I kept it because my apron belonged there; like two ill fated lovers who met again in their late years, a little worse for wear but finally happy.

And when there was room too for my old paper canister of new paint brushes and an equally old flask for my water, I knew the chair was for keeps. 

It could even hold seven small jars of precious pigments and make them look like jewels. 

And that is not all. For I could fashion a mixing board with its broken back and easily punched a hole  through. I put a tube in that hole so it could hold the most loved brushes; the ones I used all the time. Of course, I also made space for a little cup of water. 

The board has one short leg and one long one but it can be balanced with that sturdy tube of brushes. It stands securely anywhere

 but it sits most snugly on the chair where it really belongs.

I think I am ready to paint now. 

Will you join me? 

My place?

Or yours?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Day 393- Sadhabhishekam

In a Hindu's book of life, there are some chapters which are of special significance. One of them is when he  or she turns 80. On crossing the 80th, one celebrates the rare feat of having witnessed 1000 moons since birth; of having completed all familial duties and fulfilled one's commitments on earth. 

Sadhabhishevam is the celebration of such an occasion. On this day, the octogenarian also renews his or her wedding vows and the grand-olds undergo a ceremony akin to a celestial honouring of a long and enduring love. 

I was very fortunate to have attended the Sadhabishekam of a dear friend's father 3 Sundays ago. Organised and put together lovingly by his children, I  witnessed Uncle Vasu and Auntie Leela's renewal of  their vows at the Sri Shiva Temple.

The decorated chamber was a glorification of colours. Everyone came in their most resplendence, especially the women in their bright and gorgeous saris.

Saris in all shades and which I have always loved. In fact, I favour it over my own traditional dress, the cheongsam. 

I too wore an Indian dress but mine was a shawal kamis, worn mainly by the Northern Indians. Some of you might have read in a post 3 years back about this raging red dress I bought and which I have never worn. The Sadhabhishekam was my chance to finally take it out of its bag. 

The ceremony comprised largely of the pooja/prayers conducted with the priest. Indian musicians accompanied much of what went on. 

After the prayers, the grand-olds then went and sat at the courtyard. Friends and family armed with their pots of blessed water took turns to pour the water over the couple symbolising the showering of blessings by them on the couple. 

We in turn, took our blessings from the grand-olds after that. This is said to be so auspicious that even strangers who chance upon such a ceremony will ask to receive such a blessing. 

And here they are once again, the bashful bride with her beau. 

And this was the couple as I had envisaged the day before the ceremony. How fortuitous it was that I got the colour of the turban right. 

I made the couple this book box vignette to commemorate what I regard as a truly meaningful and romantic occasion. The 1st picture of this post was the cover of this book. 

It was the first handmade gift by me to a non dollhouse friend and I really hope it brought some smiles.

To Uncle Vasu and Auntie Leela
May you both live to see the 100th year!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Day 383-385-If Bookshelves Be Your Gardens

Make books your companions; 
let your bookshelves be your gardens; 
bask in their beauty, 
gather their fruit, 
pluck their roses,
take their spices and myrrh.

------------------Samuel Ibn Tibbons
(Quote handwritten in the Old Man's journal)

8 days had passed before I finally took a break from the colour pigments. By then, I had managed to extract and even begun mixing the powders to create new colours and then shades of each colour.  If not for the fact that I eventually ran out of bowls to put my colours in, I would have continued for the sheer pleasure of discovering colours the likes of which I had never thought existed. I mean, they are still primarily the colours we know, but I swear the opalescence of the blues or the florescence of my yellows and the iridescence of each hue, they are almost surreal! 

I must stop, I told myself or I will start wanting to live only in this psychedelic consciousness. 

So I stopped and I went home but of course, I couldn't leave the colours. My mind was constantly flashing riotous paint pigments, in splashes, blotches and swatches. 

I turned to my books for distractions but I found myself picking only art books, old books that I have collected over the years. There was a series on Iznik ceramics, one on Persian paintings and a few with illustrated stories like the 1001 Nights, all filled with colours. I tried to read but everything I read only made me longed harder for that world that I was desperately seeking a respite from. 

I gave up, threw my hands in the air in surrender but I sternly told myself: No more mixing colours! At least for a week! 

That was how I went back;

and that was how I came to build those bookshelves. 

With a now familiar resolve, I had intentionally brought the big and heavy art books to the house, firmly believing that I could use them to keep my hands off the mixing bench. Let me tell you, these books are so big and heavy that you will need two strong hands to read each book with no hands left to do anything else.

I had of course forgotten how the house was really not very conducive for reading. There was no comfortable seat, dim lighting and no place to store my precious old books.

The light bulb moment came when I saw this old drawer. I thought I found my 3 in 1 solution. By converting it into a small window seat cum shelf for my books, I had found a comfortable seat with good lighting at the window and a proper place to store my precious books. 

Fortuitously, I also got to play with my colours. The piece of old cloth I had used to make the seat was dyed with every colour I had made in that 8 days. Once the colours were applied, it was as if the cloth was brought to life. I could feel the pulse of its vibrancy. The newness of the seat was then contrasted with a pair of aged but sturdy floral wood carvings used to adorn the sides of the shelf. The shelf cum seat now echoes the bookstand at the mixing bench. 

I couldn't help sighing with pleasure when I looked at my completed bookshelf. If that seat was a painting, it would have been an abstract depicting a bed of spring flowers. I know it is ridiculous to see a mere seat like that but there's something about those colours that just made me think Art.

I was so high on the art of bookshelves that I decided I should also do something to house the collection of horticultural periodicals and gardening books which the old man had left behind. 

His was a collection of even older works. Due to the neglect and exposure to the elements, many  had to be thrown out. Yet, I managed to still salvage quite a few and kept all the interesting ones, the most important being his journal. 

I spent twice as long building his bookshelf because I was reading so much. 

There was this batch of periodicals that I was particularly  taken with. They were on old botanica illustrations. I actually spent hours reading and studying quite a few of them because there was something odd about those illustrations. It eventually came to me. 

The illustrations were originally printed in black and white. Colours of the drawings were subsequently added by hand. Once or twice, some pigments actually came off onto my fingers and I  noticed that they were very similar to the ones that I had extracted.

Could it be that the old man added those colours?

I can appreciate how frustrating it must have been to him to look at the flowers he was so familiar with in greyscale when he could identify the colours down to its precise shade. Part of his attempts at mixing the colours himself might have been his striving for that shade he wanted to anoint the flowers in his books with.

For the first time, I felt like I finally understood this man. His books revealed for me more of him than any other things in this house did. 

A day later, I reluctantly put the books away and started working on his shelf. 

It was a different experience, building the old man's bookshelf. Apart from the obvious, like how it only took me one day to build mine and two days to build his, I felt too that my motivations were different. My bookshelf was intended as a nook of respite, a place I could snuggle up to read and dream with quick access to my books. I built it casual and comfortable. 

The old man's bookshelf however was like a temple, built to enshrine books which I obviously felt were even more precious than mine. Flowers and plants were added, both as a homage to the old man who loved them and as a tribute for his relentless pursuit of their exact hue.

If my bookshelf was a bed of spring flowers, then I built his to be the hanging gardens of Babylon. 

5 weeks after I finished building these bookshelves, I found the quote by Samuel ibn Tibbons in the Old Man's journal. 

The Old Man also scribbled : If bookshelves be your gardens....

That day, I wrote my 1st words in the journal, right below those lines: 

If you should chance upon our gardens; you may wish to sit a while. And when you hear our roses speak, don't be alarm. For miracles and magic is commonplace; and all that they want to do is to tell  you who we are. That we are merely, the old man and I,  an artist and a gardener; and lovers of colours and plants.

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